Do Supplements Help with BPH?

When you try to find the right supplements to treat a health condition, it can feel like a shot in the dark. You often have to count on word of mouth. But some men with BPH have found success with supplements. And there’s at least some scientific research to back them up.

When you have BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), your prostate is larger than normal. It can cause problems such as a weak urine stream or you need to pee a lot throughout the day. Your doctor might suggest a prescription drug to treat your symptoms, but you might find that the side effects are too much to take. Or, you’d just rather not have to take medicine so often.

The Issue with Supplements

Supplements aren’t as closely regulated as medicines your doctor prescribes.

That means their quality, safety, and effects can vary. It’s best to talk to your doctor before you start any supplement. They may cause problems with prescription medicines, treatments, or tests you might need.

The Most Common Supplements

The best-studied, most commonly used supplements to treat BPH are:

  • Beta-sitosterol
  • Pygeum
  • Rye grass
  • Saw palmetto

Beta-sitosterol: This is a substance found in many plants. It doesn’t affect the size of the prostate, but it may help your bladder empty and give you a stronger urine flow. It may improve other BPH symptoms as well.

Studies with Harzol and Azuprostat, two supplements that contain beta-sitosterol from South African stargrass, have shown particular promise.

Pygeum: This comes from the bark of the African plum tree. It seems to help some men with BPH wake up less at night to pee, go fewer times during the day, have a stronger urine stream, and empty their bladders better.

Rye pollen extract: This substance may improve a number of BPH symptoms, such as:

  • Dribbling after you finish peeing
  • Having to pee often throughout the day
  • Painful urination
  • Weak urine stream
  • Urgent need to pee

Some research shows that it may also shrink the prostate, give you a better flow, and help you empty your bladder.

Continued

Saw palmetto: This is a short tree that grows in North America. Some small studies have shown a benefit. However, several large studies do not show that saw palmetto reduces the size of the prostate or eases urinary symptoms. Men may try it hoping to relieve common BPH symptoms such as:

  • You have a hard time getting pee to start
  • You must go often throughout the day
  • A weak stream
  • An urgent need to urinate

It may also help with waking up at night to go to the bathroom and feeling like you still have to pee after you just went.

For men who’ve had success with saw palmetto, it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to see results.

Supplements That Show Promise

Other supplements show hopeful signs of helping in studies so far, but there’s less research on these than the more common options.

Pumpkin seeds: These and pumpkin seed oil extract seem to help with BPH symptoms and may shrink the size of the prostate. It may also be helpful when used along with other supplements such as saw palmetto.

Stinging nettle: This is a type of herb, and its root may help with urine flow and waking a lot at night to pee. It’s sometimes used along with other supplements to treat BPH symptoms.

Too Early to Say

Then there are the supplements where it’s just too early to know whether they’re useful. Early studies look good, but doctors need much more data on them.

Some of these include:

  • Aqueous garlic (garlic extract in water)
  • Flaxseed lignin extract
  • Milk thistle
  • Powdered, dried cranberry
  • Quercetin (found in apples, tea, and red grapes, for example)
  • Red clover
  • Selenium
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 09, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Winchester Hospital: “Beta-Sitosterol.” “Pygeum.” “Saw Palmetto.” “Nettle.”

Mayo Clinic: “Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).”

UCLA Health: “Conditions Treated.”

PubMed: “Nutraceuticals in Prostate Disease: The Urologist’s Role.”

Medscape: “Pygeum.”

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

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